MCR 2015: Warm and Fuzzy Comix

A few comics events make my must list each year – Caption, the annual un-convention, 24 Hour Comics Day, and MCR, the Midwinter Comics Festival.

I attended my first in 2005, with bods collected from Oxford, Caption or my Livejournal friends list. The drill is simple and satisfactory: take a bunch of friends, stick them somewhere remote, get em drunk and well fed, and make comics. There’s a few types: the pro-cartoonist/s; the small pressers both diligent and dabbling; a few writers; an animator; and interested friends, who, before MCR, have never considered making comics. I often wonder why I don’t read of more MCRs. Writer’s retreats pop up all over the place. I think the answer is that this is profoundly a friends’ event.

This 2015 weekend, somewhere between Brighton and London, wasn’t a rental, but hosted at the home of Sophie. It was distinctly private, for various reasons. We had take-away food and Alan Rowell cooked morning breakfasts. We had a roaring fire, comfy furniture, cake, plonk, and room to spread out and draw. It felt like an MCR, with folk yammering away on chat from academic thought to personal friends stuff to petty nonsense and daft jokes. Yes, these are all vital to the experience, and the end product, the comic.

Traditionally Jay Eales will craft a tale out of jokes and stories that come up through the weekend, and the art duties split between the others. Traditionally, MCR bods appear as characters in the comic. There’s a recurring joke/maybe-not-joke, that the work make no sense to anyone outside of the group, which doesn’t really matter, because the purpose of having fun getting there is accomplished.

(Apparently called out in my sleep)

Some previous comics: Hellspoon!, The Fiend in Five Dimensions, and Professor Kraken’s Portico of Perverse Possessions, are available as free downloads from Jay & Selina (Lock)’s Factor Fiction Press site here.  You can also buy Project Gogglebox, and Tea and Relative Dimensions In Space as a collection from Lulu.

This weekend we returned to the Professor Kraken story, and format. That is, self-contained pieces by different writers, with Jay on the arc narrative. That’ll be coming down the pipe in the next few months, so watch for it. I can’t tell you what it’s called!

MCR 15

MCR 2015 by Selina Lock, used without permission. L-R: Alan Rowell, Terry Wiley, Jay Eales, Andy Luke.

I can tell you I’ve written and drawn ‘Speed 0’ and ‘Adverts’, written for Lee Kennedy’s ‘Music Box’, and drawn Alan Rowell’s ‘Vegan Gladiator’. Other comickers have contributed tales on Jeremy Corbyn and lingerie stores, unwelcome and beastly fruit, and bonkers cover versions of classic girls’ comics.

 

Use of internet has crept into our last through gatherings, and this year it pervaded, when Jay mentioned how the MCR hash-tag was fully owned by some band or other.

 

No tweet-back! “Don’t drag me into your pop star trolling”, said Jay. Apparently lead singer Gerard Way is something of a comics maker himself and has done some stuff Jay likes. That didn’t stop Jay nudging Terry into tweeting this,

And when I needed to fill 1/3rd of a page, Jay suggested this…

IMG_20151202_041502

My Chemical Romance fans, please don’t hate us. We’re quite nice. Think happy toast.

(Making) Bottomley – The Brand of Britain

This Friday night, wood, tyres and berries burn in Northireland. The same night, San Diego Comic Con will announce the Eisner Awards, where ‘To End All Wars’ has been nominated, twice.

I’ve felt quite alright about singing my part in the commendation. Although barely ten pages (under 1000 words most likely), I started work on ‘Bottomley – Brand of Britain’ in 2009, when political expenses and public austerity were daily headline news. Even on that trail, I didn’t realise how accurate a reflection of the time Bottomley’s tale was.

Born in 1860, ‘The Chief’ made a stack of cash from hostile takeovers, before moving into the papers. He’s all but forgotten now, but as Pat Mills says, he was a sort of Robert Maxwell of his day. Bottomley launched the Financial Times, and the first UK newspaper called The Sun. He’d be remembered only through his lead paper, ‘John Bull’. You know the icon of the fat hat with the bulldog? That was Horatio Bottomley, art commissioned by Bottomley. That dude was real, ugly.

bottomley on board ship - 1918

The re-telling started as a sub-plot for a graphic novel, but the intensive part-time study called for it to be it’s own piece. Three years later, I was still at it. I’d three drafts together when editors Clode and Clark put out the call for submissions for TEAW, and my script went under another three drafts to tailor it to the collection.

Out of work and out of money, I took a three month Invest NI course to receive a grant, a pittance really, but it would pay the illustrator something. Thankfully, both Ruairi Coleman and letterer John Robbins were on board already. John has been a long time friend, confidante and critic, and he’s probably the best comic book letterer in Ireland.

Ruairi Coleman, I didn’t know quite as well. He were young, always a sure sign of trouble, yet remarkably talented. From the get-go he was everything I hope for in a creative work partner. Ruairi took in the bundles of visual reference I sent, with eagerness, no complaint. He took it on himself to go through a number of articles on Bottomley, and sat through the hour and a half televised 1972 docu-drama featuring Timothy West, with it’s agonising awful cut-aways.

Bottomleys crowds - December 1917

Bottomley’s story is that of the Britain’s major recruiting agent. He sold the war largely through gallons of racism. As editor, publisher and columnist of ‘John Bull’, as well as frequent pieces in The Times, the papers were packed with anti-German sentiment: Germ-huns, bayoneted babies.

Bottomley -witch hunt

The same was true for four years of nationwide speaking tours for which he was handsomely paid. He brought theatre to sacrifice, including a two-part speech in which he staged a mock trial defending Britannia against the Kaiser, dressed as a judge. The photo above is from his earlier performance in Pickwick Papers. Eventually his greed got too much and jail finished him off.

For posterity, here’s a selection of pre-production images by myself and Ruairi Coleman.

Andy Luke - Bottomley - Joining the pieces

Bottomley - andyluke roughs

Bottomley's bobs

Bottomley - The Downfall 2 line pitch

Bottomley05 - Ruairi Coleman thumbs

Bottomley08 - Ruairi Coleman thumbs

BoB-02 - Ruairi Coleman thumbs

You can see more on Ruairi’s blog, and read of his experiences with ”H.B.’

Soaring Penguin Press are taking pre-orders for the soft-cover of ‘To End All Wars’. £1 of every copy sold will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières. 

You can read my newest contribution to an anthology through Kindle. 20% of every copy of the £2 ‘Tense Situations’ collection, goes to Action Cancer.

Publishers boldly enquiring on other creative works of mine, around the Great War, might wish to contact me (link) for a copy of Lord Kitchener’s Shell Crisis board game.

Finally, here’s a select Bottomley bibliography. Because I love you.

Print

Hyman, A. (1972) The Rise and Fall of Horatio Bottomley, Littlehampton Book Services Ltd

Symons, J. (1955) Horatio Bottomley, Cresset Press. Reprinted 2008 by House of Stratus.

Electronic

AndyMinion (Sept 28, 2010) Horatio Bottomley: A Lesson From History. Retreived at http://lancasteruaf.blogspot.com/2010/09/horatio-bottomley-lesson-from-history.html [Accessed: 8th July 2015]

Anon (June 5, 1933) GREAT BRITAIN: Death Of John Bull, Time. Retrieved at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,745621-1,00.html [Accessed: 8th July 2015]

Anon (Date?) Horatio Bottomley – The Soldier’s Friend, in Crimes of the Times: Law and Order After the War. Archived from http://www.aftermathww1.com/horatio1.asp [Accessed: 23rd October 2010]

Cowling, M. (2005) The Importance of Bottomley (Ch. 2, p.45-60), in The Impact of Labour 1920-1924: The Beginning of Modern British Politics, Cambridge University. Retrieved at Google Books.  [Accessed: 8th July 2015]

Lewis, Roy (Date?) Horatio Bottomley – Champagne & Kippers for breakfast. Archived from http://www.villagepublunches.org.uk/sussex-people-profiles/127-swindles.html [Accessed: 23rd October 2010]

Messinger, G. S. (1992) The Wrong Kind of Immorality: Horatio Bottomley (Ch. 13 pp.200-213), in British propaganda and the State in the First World War, Manchester University Press. Retrieved at Google Books. [Accessed: 8th July 2015]

Video

Mr. Bottomley at Yarmouth (1919) Film. UK: British Pathe Archives. Retrieved at http://www.britishpathe.com/video/mr-bottomley-at-yarmouth [Accessed: 8th July 2015]

The Edwardians, Ep. 7: Horatio Bottomley (2009) Film. Directed by Alan Clarke, UK: Acorn DVDs. Originally broadcast 28 Nov, 1972, BBC.

24 Hour Comics: What the hell was I thinking?

As you maybe know, I’ve done pretty good out of the 24 hour comics experience. Gran, Absence, Don’t Get Lost, each very personal. The fourth one was produced last October at Farset Labs. I’m very happy with how it turned out, the mercurial speed required this time, tapping my strength for quick dialogue. The two pages below are typical of how many words I was cramming on those pages. I don’t intend publishing this one as a comic. I gotta have something I can sell, right?

I did promise I would post a few pages though. The comic has a sitcom quality to it, as based on my experiences with Occupy Belfast. In particular, a very real run-in with BBC NI’s shock-jock, Stephen Nolan. So, as they say in the circus, without further ado, here’s a sample from ‘Occupied: Mixed Up Media’.

Occupied - 24hr comic

I promise, it gets inked. Last night, I signed a contract with Studio NI for a very different story featuring Occupy, and zombies; that should appear over the Summer.

Full strips from the Farset Labs session available:

Paddy Brown: A Personal Narrative
Ellie Rose McKee: The Adventures of Captain Customer Service

 

Paddy and I agreed this would be our last 24 hour bout, as we’re not young men anymore. Then again, we said that the time before and time before that. I think there’s got to be a happy medium of form that lets us crank out a lot of pages quickly and doesn’t break our souls. Look out for the 20 hour comic challenge later this year?

 

 

 

TitanCon 2014 Comics

Titancon 2014

Cat Jones there, and second artist, name misremembered. These are from the 2014 workshop hosted by myself, Paddy Brown and Rich Clements. This is my entry.

Andy Luke - King Missile - Cheesecake Truck - Titancon 2014A few of us were working on the theme of music. This may be Paddy Brown’s? He’s got a Jeremy Day style going on.

Paddy Brown - Titancon 2014Jon Pot…

Jon - Supergrass - We Are Young - TitanCon

TitanCon is back this year, and with any luck, Cat and I will be appearing in a rather special play what I’ve wrote.

New Book Days

Well, finally it has arrived.product_thumbnail

To End All Wars – The Graphic Anthology (TEAW as we’re calling it), was worth the wait, for it’s a prestigious brilliant collection. Editors Clode and Brick and publishers Soaring Penguin have done a bang up job. You can get the 320 page hardcover from Amazon for £13, or if you’re feeling generous, £18 from the publisher. £2 from each edition goes to Doctors Without Borders.

To my surprise, another graphic novel with a few pages from me in it popped up this week. Factor Fiction Press published the Midwinter Comics Retreat Flipbook which comprises Project Gogglebox and Tea And Relative Diffusions In Shropshire. It’s 56 pages, and with postage comes to £6.50 from Lulu.

Something tells me I’m not quite done  making comics as I thought…

Last week, I appeared on Bangor Community Radio with Arts Hour host Ellie McKee to talk about the book. Both of us were short on sleep but managed to get a competent broadcast out. Listen for me turning the tables on Ellie around the 17 minute mark.

 

DSCF3971

Here’s a video put together by Brick to show off TEAW. You could play it while listening to the interview, but you’d be missing out on the wonderful soundtrack he sourced.

Ellie’s Four Season Summer is out now for Kindle at this link-up, and Season’s End will follow on August 31st.

Four Season Summer Seasons End Out August 31st

 

 

Treading the Boards

If you’re near Glasgow this week you can get along to ‘Guide Gods’, were performer Claire Cunningham explores religious narrative and faith through dance, live music, humour and audio interviews with religious leaders, academics, deaf and disabled people, and me.

Guide Gods

Claire’s website has a list of this week’s dates  and according to Composer Derek Nisbet on his Guide Gods blog, the show “is part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, and will then travel to London’s South Bank Centre and on to Belfast Festival.”

Recently I’ve struck up rather nice working relationships over Open Mic sessions with musician Jim McClean  and actress Lindsey Mitchell. To this end we’re working on a play together, a condensed Game of Thrones play. We’ll be performing the comic act at the Sunflower Festival, TitanCon and are talking of a screening of the play at a well-known Belfast gallery.

Writing this, I’m surprised that my voice is making the transition to theatre. This last year, it’s been all about the writing. Writing prose over, scriptwriting for comics, feels refreshing and liberating. I feel like I can earn some money if I work hard enough. Unlike comics. a beautiful medium, were grossly underpaid workers are slowly subsumed by a culture of silverfish turned woodworm rot.

Ahem…

Writing prose is enough of a departure from scriptwriting to enthuse: I feel like an amateur who can achieve professionalism and a paycheque. Knowing I have a lot to learn is a great feeling. I’ve been encouraged by the Belfast Writers Group and open mic audiences at Skainos and Lindores. Last month, I applied to return to university on a Creative Writing Masters so I can up my practice.

Parting shot to the world of comics (for now), is the short, Bottomley – Brand of Britain. The product of much research, it’s been adapted with care by artist Ruairi Coleman and letterer John Robbins. Here’s how editor Jonathan Clode pitches it:

Horatio Bottomley, patriot and publisher of John Bull, the newspaper of the people. But behind his rousing public speeches and staunch support of the troops hides a conspiracy that would reveal one of the greatest swindles of WW1.


That’s Bottomley’s mistress, Peggy Primrose, in Panel 4, putting her hat back on after it was knocked off in the squash.

The tale appears in To End All Wars, a remarkable 320 page graphic novel with  stories by a number of established underground comixers. It features the return of the  remarkable Steven Martin of WW1 comics series, Terrible Sunrise, as well as Jenny Linn-Cole, The Pleece Brothers, Sean Michael Wilson, Joe Gordon, Selina Lock, Steve Earles, Robert Brown, John Maybury and shedloads of others.

The book is released on July 17. Copies are available for pre-order now on Amazon or, at the same price, direct from publisher John Anderson at Soaring Penguin Press. Costs £18 all inclusive and proceeds go to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.

A Fistletoe Full of Dollars

Hello Your Self!

Oh its been a buggerous few months – no credits, ISP bothers, no credits again, no credits again. When there’s barely heat and light you can’t fault me for not sending Christmas cards. I’ve tried to make up by writing a pantomime in prose for the Belfast Writers Group. It’s a contemporary re-telling of Robin Hood, as Jetfire, Thomas Carnacki and Captain Heller lead a revolt against Daniel Cameron’s Brutally Britannia. Maybe you’ll get to read ‘Christmas, Live!’, here, later.

BoB preview

Bottomley – Brand of Britian by myself, Ruairi Coleman and John Robbins is ready and complete for To End All Wars, published by Soaring Penguin Press next year. Start saving.

My new chum Daryl Shaw reviewed ‘Skin of the Teeth’,

Wow great work! I was immediately pulled in with the detail in your writing, It had me visualising early every line which was great! Loved the references.. it was fast paced which I enjoyed, kept thinking of Peter Davidson/Tennent Doctor doing all the running about while reading this… the amount of detail & description put into this.

You can still buy ‘Twelve‘ from Lulu priced £3.00 digital and £10.00 in paperback.

It looks like Daryl and I are working on ‘The Watch Thief’ together in the New Year. If looks could be gold fortunes.

I’m moving house this winter as of now and a delighted postman giggly brought my first piece there. This notification of address by our most beloved Mr. Sean Duffield, UPDATED TO REFLECT MY NEW NEW ADDRESS (20/03/2014)

aDDRESS

It’s okay Tracey Emin, I got your card.

Tracey Emin

Last, but most importantly is TARDIS, the results of the Midwinter Comics Retreat.

Jennys Bike

We tried to make it as confusing and non-linear as previous MCR comics but I think we failed. It’s a coherent tribute to our late great darling Debra Boyask, Fun Princess of Comics, that she would have been okay with.

Tardis

Tea and Relative Diffusions‘ is a comic by myself, Jay Eales, Selina Lock, Jenny Linn Cole, Lee Kennedy, Terry Wiley,  Sophie Mobbs and Alan Rowell. You can download it for free from http://www.factorfictionpress.co.uk/TeaRelativeweb.pdf

Andys right

Merry Christmas Your Arse xo

[Comic] Bob’s : Can I have your autograph Mr. Hooker?

You couldn’t quite call them policies, maybe intentions, one of the intentions I had when making Bob’s comic was to include a guest star each issue. William Shatner appeared in the third episode, having fallen asleep on Bob’s couch during an alcohol fuelled binge which no-one could remember. Despite wearing his Star Trek: The Motion Picture threads, he went unrecognised until someone mentioned the TV show T.J. Hooker.  Bob insisted that Willy get a dustpan and shovel and help clear up that mess amidst calls of “Can I have your autograph, Mr. Hooker?”

The Ralph Kidson got such a chuckle out of this he sent me his interpretation of the moment. I used this as the cover to the first Bob’s spin-off, about Willie’s return to the Enterprise and the ramifications of his days of a County Down bed-sit dole hole life. Here you go,

Can I have your autograph 1 Can I have your autograph 2 Can I have your autograph 3 Can I have your autograph 4 Can I have your autograph 5 Can I have your autograph 6 Can I have your autograph 7 Can I have your autograph 8

KROTEKK! (Comic: With Gary Parkin)

krotekk 1

krotekk 2

krotekk 3Ninja and Warrior were members of the superhero team The Peacekeepers which featured in the five issue Hero comic by Gary Parkin, who was fifteen years old when he was self-publishing the series back in 1997.  He was also self-publishing Fuzzball, a children’s comic fit for adults about a ball of fuzz that enjoyed playing football. The story above came from Hero and The Peacekeepers #1 (1999?), and was one of two stories I wrote for Gary, with the rest of the book being about the fate of lead character Hero. These were the first multi-page comics another artist drew for me. Of course, the story makes little sense to me now. Much like REM’s first album Murmur, were many words were indecipherable, I was aware I was setting out my first words on a semi-career and chose them playfully. KROTEKK! KROTEKK! And look how pretty the pictures are.

 

The Marxists

I’m taking it easy on the blogging this week as behind the scenes there’s a lot of the ingredients for a major fucking emotional collapse. I’m not a hit, you’re second place.

I will be reading a few short stories at Tullycarnet Library tomorrow night, so if you could tell people that would be great. Here’s a link: https://www.facebook.com/events/651263754907282/

Last year, The Marxists came to down. Promising a two day conference discussing the recession and the bankers collapse featuring Laurie Penny and other notables that didn’t show, the event was organised by the local Socialist Workers Party. One of them is a good mate, but there was a lot of ‘have you let the lord jesus into your heart yet?’

The Marxists 1 The Marxists 2 The Marxists 3 The Marxists 4